Technology is not the enemy (uncoolness is)

Some languages are making a comeback thanks to a strong desire on the part of speakers to send one another text messages in them. For endangered scripts, the revival will be longer in coming, till smartphones work their way cheaply into the right eager hands.

“For a long time, technology was the enemy,” says Inée Slaughter, executive director of the New Mexico-based Indigenous Language Institute, which teaches Native Americans and other indigenous peoples how to use digital technologies to keep their languages vital. Heritage languages were being killed off by increasing urbanization, the spread of formal education and the shift to cash crops, which ended the isolation of indigenous communities. Advances in technology seemed to intensify the decline. “Even in 1999 or 2000, people were saying technology killed their language,” Slaughter says. “Community elders worried about it. As television came into homes, English became pervasive 24/7. Mainstream culture infiltrated, and young kids want to be like that. It was a huge, huge problem, and it’s still there. But now we know ways technology can be helpful.”

from “Everyone Speaks Text Message,” by Tina Rosenberg, The New York TImes, 9 December 2011

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